LOI First Division
Drogheda United 1
Shelbourne sealed promotion to the top flight following a six-year hiatus as they beat Drogheda United 3-1 to seal the First Division title.
Ten-man Drogheda pushed the Reds all the way but second-half goals from Aidan Friel, Oscar Brennan and Lorcan Fitzgerald saw Ian Morris’ side clinch the league crown.
It was very much a six-pointer as Drogheda were the only side capable of overhauling Shelbourne’s lead at the top. And a win would have seen them go into the final day leading on goal difference.
As it happened, Shels got the job done with a game to spare as they wore down a Drogs side who equalised through Luke McNally 13 minutes from time after Sean Brennan was red-carded.
A capacity crowd of almost 2,600 people watched on at United Park. They saw Shels breach the net after just seven minutes, only for Drogheda native Ryan Brennan’s header to be ruled offside.
Shels continued to have the better of the opening half but it took until its midway point for them to bother Luca Gratzer as Ciaran Kilduff shot low at the Drogs keeper.
Drogheda’s first chance arrived as two former Shels men linked up with James Brown bombing down the right, picking out Chris Lyons, but the striker shot straight at Colin McCabe.
Mark Doyle was next to go close from Sean Brennan’s cross but his header was deflected wide, and from the resulting corner McNally’s header missed the target.
Doyle, Stephen Meaney and, finally, Sean Brennan had chances to put Drogheda in front at the break but the first two were blocked before Brennan pulled his shot wide.
The game turned on its head ten minutes after the break. Sean Brennan was shown a second yellow card for a raised arm after first being booked for dissent, reducing Drogheda to ten men.
The visitors hit the front just a few minutes later as Ryan Brennan teed up right-back Friel to rifle home an unstoppable shot, his second goal of the season.
An outstanding save from Gratzer was all that kept Drogheda in it after that as he somehow managed to tip Ciaran Kilduff’s header onto the bar and the loose ball was volleyed away.
Remarkably, Drogheda broke up the other end and equalised as Lyons dribbled in from the corner and picked out McNally, who had moved up top, to smash home.
Drogheda’s luck wouldn’t hold out, however, as Shels regained the lead within four minutes through Oscar Brennan.
There seemed little on when Friel’s cross was headed out about 30 yards from goal but Brennan controlled the ball before sending a spectacular volley into the bottom corner.
And the Reds ensured Premier Division football will return to Drumcondra for the first time since 2012 when left-back Fitzgerald raced the length of the pitch to nudge the ball past Gratzer.